Tasting the Good Life: Wine Tourism in the Napa Valley

While anthropologists often have been accused of failing to “study up,” this book turns an anthropological lens on an elite activity – wine tasting. Five million people a year, from the US and abroad, travel to California’s …

While anthropologists often have been accused of failing to “study up,” this book turns an anthropological lens on an elite activity – wine tasting. Five million people a year, from the US and abroad, travel to California’s Napa Valley to experience the “good life” : to taste fine wines, eat fine food, and immerse themselves in other sophisticated pleasures while surrounded by bucolic beauty.

Written in a highly readable style by anthropologists George and Sharon Gmelch, Tasting the Good Life examines who wine tourists are and what the “tasting” experience is all about. It also examines the growth of wine tourism in the valley and the impact it is having on the landscape and the lives of the people who live there. In addition to the authors’ own analysis, they present the personal narratives of 17 people who work in Napa tourism — from winemaker to vineyard manager, from celebrity chef to wait staff, from hot air balloonist to masseuse. Their stories provide unexpected and entertaining insights into this new form of tourism, the people who engage in it, its impact on a now iconic place, and American consumer culture in the 21st century.

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